Pilot Journal
Monday, March 1, 2004

The 2004 Skylane Goes Glass

Cessna Turned a Lot of Heads When it took its New Baby on the Road

skylaneIn October of last year, Cessna rolled out the 2004 Skylane for dealers to see. The newest 182 featured new paint on the outside, but something truly remarkable on the inside: an all-glass cockpit via the Garmin G1000 Integrated Avionics System. Cessna took orders for more than 300 of the new Skylanes in 24 hours, leaving them with the enviable problem of looking for ways to increase the production run to meet the demand.
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Cessna flight-training supervisor Kirby Ortega and single-engine marketing manager Lori Lucion made the first of a series of flights across the country in the new 2004 Skylane. Also a student pilot, Lucion got hands-on flight time while Ortega put the Garmin G1000 through the paces. But the job wasn’t without duties. The pair traveled with a detail kit so they could keep the airplane shining its factory shine.
And wherever the duo landed, the Skylane drew a crowd. Arriving in Monterey, Calif., was no exception. Among the lookie-loos was the Air Force’s premier air-demonstration squad, the Thunderbirds, who were in town for an air show in nearby Salinas. As the team looked the new Garmin panel over, someone in the crowd teased them about having to fly some of the oldest F-16s in service, most of which aren’t half as well-equipped as the Cessna in front of them.

The G1000 is an eyeful because it integrates all flight, navigation, communication, terrain, traffic, weather and engine sensor data onto two screens, a primary flight display (PFD) and a multifunction display (MFD). It has dual avionics systems with dual com radios, dual VOR/LOC/ILS receivers and dual GPS receivers based on the now ubiquitous Garmin GNS 430/530 technologies. While the demonstrator that Ortega and Lucion flew was still waiting on several components for final certification at the time of this writing, the all-glass Skylane will feature a Honeywell KAP-140 Dual Axis autopilot with altitude preselect and GPS Roll Steering functionality. A WX-500 Stormscope can be displayed on either the PFD or MFD, and a high-bandwidth data weather-link system from XM Satellite Radio will display NEXRADs, METARs, TAFs, lightning and 14 other weather services, making the Skylane an astonishingly well-equipped single-engine instrument platform. “3-D” terrain views and Jeppesen View/FlightDeck electronic charts are scheduled to be added in the near future.

Basic flight information, like attitude, airspeed and altitude, are displayed directly in front of the pilot on the PFD. The big screen is bordered by additional navigation and communication data, and an inset or copy of the neighboring screen can be brought up on the PFD at the touch of a button. As you would expect, the MFD handles functions like moving map, weather and combinations of EFIS engine monitoring. Its programs also allow a variety of other displays, including aircraft checklists, runway depictions, traffic and terrain information.

skylaneThe heart of the G1000 is a solid-state Altitude Heading and Reference System (AHRS). It combines highly accurate GPS positioning, air data and 3-D magnetic-field information (from an onboard magnetometer mounted in the left wing!) to supply the images that the pilot sees on the LCD displays. Interestingly, the Garmin G1000 system is the only one in the market that can align itself while moving. Should there be a power interruption or other hiccup in flight, this AHRS can pick up the pieces and quickly carry on. Other systems require the pilot to land and park the airplane for three to four minutes, while the AHRS initiates and completes the realignment process.

In case of an electrical failure, the Skylane does have a backup battery capable of powering essential instruments for more than half an hour. This battery is constantly being charged when the engine is running and automatically switches online in the event of a problem. A standard vacuum-powered airspeed indicator, attitude gyro, altimeter and magnetic compass are available at the bottom of the panel, as well.

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